Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Be the change you want to see in this world" - Gandhi

Two days ago, I got a call from a groom-to-be inquiring about the possibility of supplying them with handmade paper envelopes & backing for their invitation. They will be printing their own invite which was done digitally but they wanted to convey a "green wedding" theme to their invite.

Every time I encounter people who are eco-conscious, especially soon-to-weds looking specifically for handmade paper invitations, I get ecstatic because this is what our country and the whole world needs - a breed of people wanting to change the world in their own little ways. I can't help but give the groom a "little" background of our handmade papers, its impact on our environment and in the lives of the people who were once displaced by a civil war in Mindanao. In my own little way, I wanted him to know that his payment for the invitations that I will make will not only benefit myself but it goes a long way. How?

I employ 2.5 people (the 0.5 is my yaya who part-times in my business handling our inventory :) ) and they have their family to support to back home. As for me, this little business that I have not only brings a little livelihood for myself but this has been my passion, my creative outlet, the one who brought back my self-esteem. Its a long story but lets just leave it at that :)

Going back, patronizing our Philippine handmade paper means we are helping these people to earn a living not just for the workers but also their families who depend on them. At the same time, MSMEs help fuel our economy and help ease our labor problem. On the environmental aspect, these papers are TREE-FREE (you may also want to check out my blog action day entry here), meaning, trees were not cut (= no deforestation = no floods). We use abaca, salago & cogon grass instead. Cogon grass used to be a waste grass but has become useful in handmade paper -making.

So what could be better than this? Environment-friendly + job creation + unique & personalized

Problem is AWARENESS. In the wedding industry, for the past 7 years that I've been doing this, I can say that somehow I made a mark in the handcrafted, handmade paper invitation category because I stick it out in using Philippine handmade paper (not Thailand or India handmade papers pls.) and as much as possible using indigenous materials (Pinoy-made) to help other small businesses, too. But with the advent of digital printing, cheaper imported commercial papers, other printers can come up with really cheap prices of invites but with quality indeed. I cannot really compete with that since handmade paper alone is not cheap as commercial paper + the fact that we are fair-traders.

{ When you choose commercial paper...}

Commercial papers usually contain virgin pulps from trees. Some contain 30% post-consumer waste (pulp from recycled paper products) which is a good thing BUT STILL they still contain virgin pulps from trees.

The production process may or may not be environmentally-friendly (depending on what country and IF the manufacturers follow strict guidelines in production ie., how do they handle post-production waste? are the workers properly protected during production? Are they fairly compensated?)

Most commercial papers here are imported. When we import, we shell out needed $ (that our country needs) and we give "livelihood" big companies abroad. If only we buy Filipino then the money could have been paid to Filipino business that in turn employ Filipinos, too. Of course, you may say that the import taxes also help our government (o "government people"?)in a way but that is quite a big ? for me. Anyway, in my opinion, I think buying locally far outweighs importing (& paying import taxes daw) in terms of livelihood it gives to our people. On the environment aspect, importing means we use more fuel/energy than buying locally.

In printing the invites, I do hope more and more printing presses will use soy-based inks instead of the hazardous chemical inks.

In fairness, digital or offset invitations can take so many beautiful forms - in the design, colors, shapes - that handmade paper counterpart cannot really compete (i ran out of word other than this) to. But as I always say, I don't compete with them...I have a league of my own...we cater to people who appreciate handmade things, eco-conscious and personalized service. People who want to be a change in this world.

So, going back to the groom, we ended up talking longer than the usual inquiry thing... how they (bride & groom) want not just to have a "green" wedding but throughout their lives. Its so nice to meet people who have the same wavelength as is mentally stimulating and makes you feel that you are not alone in your environmental campaign. And just like what Optimus Prime said "....we are here...we are waiting."

Think Green!

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